Whether you know American writer Joan Didion’s restrained, razor-sharp writing or not, this new documentary, The Center Will Not Hold, directed by her nephew Griffin Dunne, detailing both Didion’s triumphs and heartbreaks, is worth watching.
Wearing her over-sized dark glasses, with a cigarette dangling from her thin hand, Didion is seen pausing, thinking and then offering a spare,intelligent, wry observation. Her words on the page and aloud are efficient and lyrical. Talk is never cheap when it comes to Didion.
The documentary alternates between showing evocative vintage footage of the illustrious world Didion and her late husband writer John Dunne traveled in (Jim Morrison, Harrison Ford, Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Janis Joplin, Brian de Palma to name a few) with recent footage of nephew and aunt looking back over a poignant life fully-felt, including the shocking deaths of both her adored husband John and daughter Quintana within the same year.
Character, the willingness to accept one’s responsibility for one’s own life, is the source from which self-respect springs.
Let me tell you, it was gold. You live for that, good or bad.”
We are here on this island in the middle of the Pacific in lieu of filing for divorce.”
He edited it, she answers. You used your material. You used what you had. And that’s what I had at that moment.”